30 November 2009

Movie Review: Eating Out 3

I always feel very conflicted about this series of movies. I feel like, at some points, they just want to show lots of muscular gym bunnies is various states of undress. Yet, they somehow are able to end each story with a pleasant moral. I always wonder whether seeing these movies when I was younger would have helped or hindered my psychological development.

In Eating Out (the original) movie had a famous and provocative scene where Marc (gay) sucks off Caleb (straight) while Gwen (Marc's friend) has phone sex with Caleb on the telephone. Eat Out 2: Sloppy Second continues this theme of straight woman helping a gay guy to seduce an ambivalent/ambiguous guy.

However, in its characteristic tradition of pandering to lurid and prurient interests, this time it is an ambiguous straight guy that uses the ménage à trois to get to two gay guys together. It was almost a total break, but not quite -- Tiffani has to coax her ex-boyfriend to do it and provide some visual support during the actual sex.

As an interesting side-note, Two Filipina-Americans play the role of Asian-immigrant nail care specialists only speaking some Sino-Tibetan or Austrasiatic language.

The third installment of this light romantic-comedy series is worth watching if you have extra time and a little critical reflection on some of the collective personalities in urban American gay culture or if you like watching movie with half and fully naked buff white guys.

28 November 2009

Movie Review: 100 Days Before the Command

This movie should have been called 100 minutes before the end. This very long, non-narrative movie was shot and edited a few months before the end of the U.S.S.R. It follows three recruits in the Red Army and shows, in a non-narrative fashion, how totally gay it is to live and work in an army. That's about it. (It is not Eisenstein or like him.)

If watching young naked Russian men prancing around their barracks in various states of undress and washing each other naked in the showers is of some interest to you, then I'd say watch it. Otherwise, you'll be like an Atheist with an attention deficit watching Die Große Stille / Into Great Silence.

26 November 2009

Book Review: Alone in the Trenches

Esera Tuaolo is a Samoan man who was a nose tackle in the National Football League (US) and then, at the end of his career, came out of the closet as gay -- being only the third player or ex-player to do so in the organization's 89 year history. He wrote his autobiography, Alone in the Trenches.

So I'm not really a big fan of autobiography, but that is because I'm not really a big fan of anyone. I once recommended this book to an acquaintance I knew who was gay and a Samoan football player (there are many). I hadn't read the book. I had only read something online when it was first published. I don't think my acquaintance every read the book. But I stumbled upon it some how and read it recently.

He was born and raised in Hawai'i and then moved to the U.S. West Coast as a teenager. He was molested by his uncle repeatedly and frequently. He had an older gay brother who died of AIDS. He spent a substantial amount of his time as a professional football player constantly worried about being found out gay. He is also really super Christian. Okay, so that's the book in a nutshell.

Having had many friends and interests who were Samoan, I think the book, although not the tightest piece of prose written, would be very accessible to the audience it is most suited to: young Polynesian men struggling with issues around their sexuality.

He also says something quite profound about surviving sexual abuse/incest -- although he is a little nutty on the Christian stuff. But, hey, didn't everyone go through a nutty religious period at some point in their lives? I think for survivors of sexual abuse that have questions about their sexuality, his insight is important and significant.

I don't follow any sports really -- except the summer Olympics -- so a substantial portion of his story about what it's like to be an American football player wasn't particularly interesting. For younger people who are in sports, it really would be interesting.

I also found it interesting that the Samoan community didn't embrace his disclosure and I guess no surprise, Greg Louganis, another gay Samoan, didn't really make an impressive splash in the Samoan diasporic community with his coming out either. Of course, Greg Louganis was adopted at birth by white American parents and didn't have any real strong ties to the Samoan community. Tuaolo claims to descend from a chiefly line and was connected right in with his family/community from birth.

If Tuaolo's autobio ever became a movie like Greg Louganis -- which I doubt -- I wonder who would play the handsome Tuaolo (o Tuaolo o le alii aulelei). I doubt it would be Mario Lopez, he's hot but he is way too skinny. I think it would be hot if Dwyane "The Rock" Johnson played Tuaolo. I remember all these "straight" Samoan guys swooning over his poster when he was a professional wrestler. I don't think he's got the same facial features or skin tone of Tuaolo, but he's got the build and is a decent actor.

So, in this long, rambling and unfocused book review: I'd say, pick up a copy if you like biographies, autobiographies, men in sports, Polynesians/Polynesian culture or Christ. Or, if you are a survivor of sexual abuse or a young impressionable Polynesian youth.

The version I read was a 288 page hardbound published by the Sourcebooks Inc (July 1, 2007) ISBN: 978-1402209239. The book is written in English.The lowest price was at abebooks.com.

25 November 2009

Movie Review: Unmistaken Child

As I began watching this movie, I thought... this reminds me of when my mentor lama and I made a pilgrimage to Southern India to receive an important teaching and secret initiation from HH the XIV Dalai Lama. My mentor-lama told me that some cultures have gay communities, others have monasteries. With over 150,000 people in a small farming village on the edge of a vast desert, many of them being monks, it occurred to me for the first time the cultural and historical context for a "gay identity."

The protagonist of this documentary, the monk Tenzin Zopa, knew at a very early age that he had no interest in girls or arranged marriages. This translated in his isolated valley/village as such thing to be pre-ordained if he got the blessing of the hermit-lama who lived in a cave out passed the fields. "He would marry and work in the fields." He received the blessing of that hermit-lama in the cave. And subsequently became his private attendant. The movie starts when the hermit-lama has passed away and the high Lamas have decided it is for this younger attendant lama to find his master's reincarnation.

The question that persists for much of the film is... will Tenzin Zopa have the strength and discipline to find his master's reincarnation with someone who believes himself to be so ordinary and not extraordinary?

It would only be appropriate that an hour into the movie, this movie which was ambling through the Himalayas in search of Lama Konchog's reincarnation would cross paths with my pilgrimage with my mentor-lama in Southern India -- to the same teaching and secret initiation. As the movie ambled on, even we, unknowingly were swept up into the documentary as a flicker of an instant as the camera swept over the multitude of tribes and wanderers at the pilgrimage. And that is where the intersection ended until now, when years later, it again intersected in the form of a DVD.

Sogyal Rinpoche said this:
Every spiritual tradition has stressed that this human life is unique and has a potential that ordinarily we don’t even begin to imagine. If we miss the opportunity this life offers us for transforming ourselves, they say, it may well be an extremely long time before we have another.

Imagine a blind turtle roaming the depths of an ocean the size of the universe. Up above floats a wooden ring, tossed to and fro on the waves. Every hundred years, the turtle comes, once, to the surface. To be born a human being is said by Buddhists to be more difficult than for that turtle to surface accidentally with its head poking through the wooden ring.

And even among those who have a human birth, it is said, those who have the great good fortune to make a connection with the teachings are rare, and those who really take them to heart and embody them in their actions even rarer—as rare, in fact, “as stars in broad daylight.”
What are you doing with your precious human life?

24 November 2009

Movie Review: Quemar Las Naves

I have seen so many bad Spanish-language films this year that I almost dreaded having to watch another. Yet I was happily surprised. It could be a bias though. For several years, I lived in a world where English and Spanish were both spoken equally and regularly and I almost studied in Mexico for a year.

The plot: a brother, Sebastian, and sister, Helena, reunite and become close (maybe too close) care for their mother until she dies. In the meantime, Sebastian (above left) falls in love with new student Juan and that upsets his popular and rich friend, Ishmael (below left), who then plots to interrupt the developing love. The movie goes on through dark thickets of the human psyche.

In the picture above, Helena confronts Sebastian with drawings he has made of Juan asking him if he's a fag. "Are you a fag, Sebastian? Are you?" I don't want to give too much of the story away -- go and watch -- but this would be perfectly remade Philippine film -- anybody have Piolo's number -- or dubbed into Tagalog. Life after death.

23 November 2009

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Scheez

I haven't totally lost my mind. I also wanted to write something and had writer's block and then, it popped into my head.

For the benefit of Mr. Scheez
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo-Fanques is there, what a scene
Over men and horses hoops and garters
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire!
In this way Mr. Scheez. will challenge the world!

The celebrated Mr. S
Performs his feat on Saturday at Bishopsgate
The Hendersons will dance and sing
As Mr. Scheez flies through the ring don't be late
Mr. S assures the public
Their production will be second to none
And of course Henry The Horse dances the waltz-!

(Circus organ music)
The band begins at ten to six
When Mr. S. performs his tricks without a sound
And Mr. H. will demonstrate
Ten somersets he'll undertake on solid ground
Having been some days in preparation
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
And tonight Mr. Scheez is topping the bill.

(Circus organ music)

22 November 2009

Efren Peñaflorida is CNN Hero 2009

CNN names Efren Peñaflorida CNN Hero 2009 after earning 2.75 million votes in seven weeks. GMA will confer upon him the commander rank of the Order of Lakandula.

16 November 2009

Render Onto Comelec That Which is Comelec's

(COMELEC's Hatchet Man)

I don't even know where to begin about Comelec's decision. So let me begin at the beginning:
"The doctrine of the separation of the Church and State was not enunciated by a king or a president, or by a pope or a bishop, but by our Lord Jesus Himself. While our Lord was still in this world, there were those who wanted to show Him up as a false prophet, so they went to Him and asked whether they should pay the taxes demanded by the Roman government or not. Thereupon Jesus asked them to show Him a coin; upon receiving it, He asked them whose face was it that appeared on the coin and they answered it was Caesar's. Jesus then said: "Render unto Caeser what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." [Matt 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26] (President Manuel L. Quezon at the Luneta, Manila 17 July 1938)
I think fundamentally, the error in judgment from Comelec comes from the hubris that it can determine ecclesiastical law. These are not men of the cloth but of the law. The constitution does not vest Comelec with the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. It is an organ of the government of the Philippine republic. Comelec cannot consider the Bible or the Qu'ran procedurely. What the Bible or Qu'ran says is a question of fact and proper evidence must be received as to what it says, including interpretation by competent authorities.

A government agency however cannot properly determine who is a competent authority in ecclesiastical law. It is beyond the powers of the State. The most a government agency can do is determine that a religious belief is genuinely held. If Comelec developed its own evidence to support its conclusions, it would be put in the same predicament of having to determine which priest(s) or imam(s) are properly interpreting Biblical/Qu'ranical texts. Our constitution commands all government entities:
Art. III, Sec. 5 (1987 Con. R.P.): Section 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
It is clear that Comelec is not an organ of ecclesiastical jurisdiction since no organ of the State has conferred upon it ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Let's take a look at Comelec's actual constitutional duties:
Art. IX, Sec. 2(5): Register, after sufficient publication, political parties, organizations, or coalitions which, in addition to other requirements, must present their platform or program of government; and accredit citizens' arms of the Commission on Elections. Religious denominations and sects shall not be registered. Those which seek to achieve their goals through violence or unlawful means, or refuse to uphold and adhere to this Constitution, or which are supported by any foreign government shall likewise be refused registration.
Art. IX, Sec. 6: A free and open party system shall be allowed to evolve according to the free choice of the people, subject to the provisions of this Article.
Yet, by making determinations as to the meaning and significance of various Biblican and Qu'ranic verses, they have usurped the function both of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and promoted the establishment of a particular religion. There appears to be nothing in Article IX of the Constitution that delegates this kind of authority. It is also impossible to allow a free and open party system according to the free choice of the people when Comelec considers matters outside of its jurisdiction in foreclosing such possibilities.

Comelec points to the following provision as the basis for denying Ladlad certification:
Art. II, Sec. 13: The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.
A political party is a group or organization of voters who seek to coalition for a particular group of values, principles or ideology. Yet, the "youth" aren't allowed to vote. They aren't voters. It is not up to Comelec to consider what effects a political party may or may not have upon non-voters. That's not part of Comelec's jurisdiction. Voters are limited as follows:
Art. V, Sec. 1: Suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least eighteen years of age, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year, and in the place wherein they propose to vote, for at least six months immediately preceding the election. No literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.
Comelec might have well based the denial on Art. II, Sec. 16 regarding the environment since Ratzinger said last year that LGBT are a threat to the earth like global-warming. From a legal standpoint, this shows entirely the absurdity of Comelec's decision. It is religious, it is arrogant and it is unconstitutional. While looking for irrelevant provisions of the constitution to base the denial, Comelec ignored an important state policy that bears directly on the purpose of Ladlad:
Art. II, Sec. 11: The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.
Sr. Camilo Osias of La Union, when he was a member of the National Assembly on April 22, 1938 said on the Assembly floor, in a privileged speech:
"Among educators there is a difference and a distinction between morality and religion. Morality is one field, religion another field. To one school of thought at least, morality, has to do with those fundamental relations that exist between man and man, between finite and finite. Religion, on the other hand, deals with those relations between man and his Maker, between the finite and the infinite. The State, according to our Constitution, is not to be made an instrument for the promotion of any religion or sect or denomination, much less to engage in fostering those supernatural, miraculous, mysterious things of the spirit. It should tolerate religion, it should make it possible that religion be taught, but it is not going to be made a tool of any religious group. And I object to our government being made a tool because I believe in nationalism, but I am thoroughly against supra-nationalism. We all sacrificed for independence because we want the center of gravity for our culture and civilization to be right in our midst. We do not want supra-nationalism whether the source of supra-nationalism be Washington or Rome... It is a repudiation of Rizal's writings and the cause for which he gladly suffered and died... It is inimical to public policy because there are advocates ... who deny the principle of separation of Church and State, and perforce reveal themselves as not having imbibed the very essence of genuine religious freedom in our midst."
If the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines really believes in the freedom of religion and its own authority to determine its internal affairs and its doctrines in the long term, it would oppose this superficially agreeable decision by Comelec. If it takes the politically expedient avenue of the short-term and does not oppose Comelec's resolution, it is only sealing its own future.
"It became clear day by day that the abuses of the friars and the weakness of the civil administration, which was joined in an unholy wedlock to the Church, continued unabated and could not be softened by any appeal to reason or to any sense of humanity." (Agoncillo, The Revolt of the Masses 62)
In every time and place in history where the religious institution remains undifferentiated from or merges with the civil institutions, the story always ends with the decline of the religious institution. When the old king dies or is overthrown and a new king is installed, all those cancerous appendages of the old king go to the grave with him.

09 November 2009

Mother Nature's Son

It was a warm morning for the area although well below what my body was accustomed to -- a balmy 5 degrees with hopes it might get up to 10 degrees. Late summer in the Vidzeme countryside. We pulled off a paved road into a narrow path just wide enough for the car. We pulled off the narrow path and came to a stop when the terrain sloped upward. We got out and grabbed wicker baskets and fanned out.

I had prepared by looking for wild blueberries, bilberries and currants the previous week roaming through forests closer to civilization.

I was a little nervous so I stayed close to my uncle -- seven years my junior -- as we began hunting. It was not until I separated and starting milling around on my own did I begin to see and find them -- hidden in the shadows, under leaves, below the grasses, the twigs, the roots. I found and got many of nature's most mysterious fruit. White with gills and a cap for a hat.

I was picking the most common of them all, apparently, although I found one yellow with deep gills and a trumpet for a hat. At this point, this was the most beautiful form I had ever discovered in a forest or in nature. The color, shape, texture and taste of them will forever be impressed in my soul.

Then, I began to discover what my uncle described as poisonous and inedible little beauties. I didn't find them poisonous or inedible as eating them was not the primary motivation for my hunting -- but curiosity.
We filled our baskets and after some time, went back to our car. We packed up and traveled farther down the long and narrow road. The trees were wider and lower. We got out and fanned out again. This time I was more alone. I found one that was bluish green. I called to my uncle. After a few minutes he appeared next to me. He took it from my hand said something in that ancient language that was wholly unintelligible and then impaled it on a small branch. This was an offering to the forest for such good fortune to find this very rare variety. He told me how lucky I was to find it.

Being alone in a giant forest halfway around the world from my own home without being in visual contact with anyone else was a little unnerving -- it became a little more unnerving when I'd call out to others and get no response. But I keep looking and finding and cutting. After some time we all wandered back into a group and called it a day. A day it was.

It would then not be until about four years later, in another forest, half a world away that the ancient and hidden world of the fruits of this subterranean life would emerge from the depths of the soil.
This hidden world would be made visible by a curious tribe. The tribesmen first evaluated me in the white man's world by taking me to a beauty pageant and evaluating me. I didn't know I was being evaluated. But I passed whatever tests were given. The second night we were deep in the forest. The tribe first introduced me to a little nomadic devil not from the forest but a faraway desert.
This is not a story about life in the desert, so I'll skip the details. But the tribe was impressed as was I. So, on the third night that I spent with this tribe up in the mountains, they introduced me to them. It required no hunting, no gathering, no cutting. I was offered what tasted much like earth -- like teas given to me by my Chinese doctor.
While the tribe was having a tremendously collective experience of agape, I was not. I moved outside into the cool night air. The forest was alive. The trees closest to the hut swayed in the night breeze and were talking to me. I looked down and the grasses whispered their secrets in the shadows of the moonlight.

I spent quite a long time alone out in the forest. I floated between the sky and the deep subterranean structure of life on the breath of nature's whispering song. Tribesmen came out to check on me and went back in. But the whispering song was a secret only I could hear. It was a secret that was haunting and alluring and devouring.

After quite some time, I returned to inside the hut where a fire was burning that kept things much warmer. The tribe was still having a communal moment. I found a corner and closed my eyes and prayed and wandered through the forest of my soul.

The next day I tribesmen took me out of the forest and off the mountain. I thanked them and bade them farewell. I returned home.
As life moved on, it began to unfold and unfurl in a level of complexity I had always been afraid to allow. And it has been well worth it.

Life is love.

04 November 2009

Movie Review: Down the River

I am not particularly keen on formal movies that only loosely thread a plot to a theme. However, Anucha Boonyawatana's Down the River was lyrical and poetic in just the right way -- at least for how I experienced by own teenage angst. It captured the angst of a young man torn by the demands of society against his own personal truth. It was able to intertwine popular understandings of Buddhist symbolism without sounding trite and was able to avoid losing the point and the plot in the thematic textures. A short hour long film worth watching.

03 November 2009

Au Revoir L'homme Blanc Célèbre

Claude Lévi-Strauss
28 November 1908 – 1 November 2009

Paalam Na
A Hui Hou Kaua
Tofa Soifua